PEACE BY REV, SAMUEL HORSFALL
GeNISES VIII. 11.
And the dove came in to him in the evenings and loy in her mouth, ivas an olive leaf pliickt off: So Noah knew that tlie ivaters were abated from off the earth.
THE dove announcing to Noah the abatement of the waters from the face of the earth, by producing a leaf which she had plucked from the olive-tree, intimated to him an approaching restoration of tranquillity to the agitated bosom of nature: even so, metaphorically speaking, has peace, like the dove, her truest emblem, having long found no rest for the sole of her foot, at length returned to our isle, Avhile under the sheltering branches of the olive we may sit, and enjoy her serene and tranquil delights, " And none shall make us afraid."
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The turbulent passions of men, ever since the fall of Adam, from the tranquil state in which God created him, have been justly compared to the boisterous waves of the deep, w^hose waters cast up mire and dirt. Every evil, every sin, which does so easily beset us, arises from the headstrong torrent of our passions, and till we admit the still small voice of reason, the dove with the olive of peace, into the ark of our bosoms, we shall produce nothing but " The overflowings of ungodliness."
We have long, my brethren! seen the factious and discontented spirit of man produce such numberless causes of misery to mankind, during the war we have now terminated, as nothing parallel thereto can be found in history. The civil wars of our vmfortunate monarch, Charles I., can alone bear a comparison therewithj which- begun, not indeed with an open defiance of Providence, and an avowed blasphemous denial of the living' God, but what was neanlry aS; bad, they commenced with an hypocritical pretence of defending the reformed religion, while their restless spirits laboiu'cd only for the, full and entire gratification of their boundless ambitjon.
U2 SERMON X.
Examine every history from the remotest period, and it has ever been the case, that men of ambitious minds have strove to shelter their arrogant designs under some plausible pretence. The destruction of empires and kingdoms, the fall of the greatest sovereignties have ever been brought about by men who endeavoured to give their ambitious designs some appearance of rationality; which plainly indicates an innate sense of a Deity being deeply and naturally engraven on the hearts of men: but seldom has it occurred, that a systematic unbelief, founded on a long-digested plan for the overthrowing all notions of God and religion, has stirred up in its votaries, a spirit of diabolical malice and persecution against principles inherent in the mind, and established therein, by the innate conviction of truth and justice. This was peculiarly the characteristic of the first promoters of the disturbances in France; for whatever causes of murmur and discontent might spring from arbitrary powder, ancl abuses in the form of
such governments; yet such a revolution would never have produced those sanguinary consequences
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it has unfortunately done, to the disgrace of human nature, and the indeUhle infamy of that kingdom in particular, unless the belief of a God had been eradicated from the minds of the first instigators of it.
Long before the revolution in France broke out, with all its train of dire events, some men, whose learning might have taught them better, being at enmity with all religious establishments, which alone could check the indulgence of their licentious or ambitious projects, ventured to broach doctrines, which could only be suggested by that fiend, who, in these latter times, as was foretold, was to have rule in the councils of men : not content with denying their Saviour, but in direct opposition to the testimony of ages, in all the madness of Atheism, absolutely denied the existence of a God, and magnifying their own short-sighted rea-
son above the revealed evidence of Scripture, blasphemously placed it on the throne of Almighty Wisdom.
To trace to you the progressive course of these hellish principles, how they begun, have been
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carried on, till they gradually terminated in rebellion, in murder, and regicide, would carry me beyond the intent of this discourse, which designs only the warning you against those principles, which maj' deprive you of your expectations of that vast bliss, in the enjoyment of heaven, which the gospel alone promises to every true believer, and which, I would fain hope, every individual here present wishes to obtain.
To combat these dangerous principles, there have not been wanting the labours of many pious men, who have exposed their fatal consequences, and pointed out their destructive tendency : but as these are not within the reach of men in the or-
dinary course of life, it has been the preacher's care, and it surely was his duty, to caution his hearers against listening to opinions, which have been, with indefatigable industry, instilled into the minds of the unlearned part of mankind.
The blessings of peace, contrasted with the calamities of war, must make the return of it gratefid to every well-wisher to his country, and sure I am, except the self-interested man, whose feelings
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of humanity are absorbed in his own selfishness, there is no one who does not rejoice in the circumstance of peace.
Is it not a cause for our rejoicing that we can sit down in the expressive language of holy writ — " Every man under his own vine and under his *^ own fig-tree?'' — That we can, in the tranquil bosoms of our own homes, find that inward satisfaction resulting from the consideration, that peace is returned to our land, and that wild havoc rages no
more? — Happy are we in our situation as an island ! The dreadful scenes of war can but rarely reach our dwellings, while the invincible valour of the British navy guards our coasts. Let not this circumstance lose its energy on your minds; let it excite you to gratitude to God, who " Maketh w ars '^ to cease in all the world ; who breaketh the bow, " and knappeth the spear asunder."
With war, we may be assured, all its concomitant train of evils will vanish. Plentiful through the blessing of God, was the harvest of last year, and the dread of scarcity was thereby removed : let us but beseech the God, who croWneth the year with
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his goodness, to make the next equally so; and then we may reasonably hope, the necessaries of life will be within the reach of industry and frugality. Happy, unspeakably happy is that man, who can, with pleasure and satisfaction, enjoy the calm
delights of a tranquil home -, and with every pleasing reflection, that springs from a love of concord and harmony, can relish the fruits of his industry and sobriety; and with a truly tender anxiety for the peace of bis native land, can rejoice in its possession of that invaluable blessing, and contribute to its preservation, by his duty to his God, loyalty to his sovereign, and love to his neighbour ! Can he be impressed with these sentiments, which lead him to the adoration of the Supreme Being, the Deity, who beholds him with a gracious eye, and not be inspired with the liveliest gratitude for the blessings which surround his humble dwelling? Will he not rather be zealous to evince that gratitude by studying the precepts of his blessed Son, who has taught him to subdue the tempestuous passions of his nature, and to look beyond the tumultuous billows of this stormy life, to that celestial
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shore, where serenity and love dwell eternally; where the God of peace displays his mild benevolence, and extends the sceptre of mercy to the pe-
nitent and believing christian ?
When this is the case; — when we make the blessings we enjoy, in how small a portion soever allotted to us, a motive for contentment and resignation, by subjugating our passions, and by that means, make them conducive to our happiness in this life, and productive of our immortal felicity in the next; then do we prove ourselves worthy of the blessings of peace: but when we give way to the current of our passions, and suffer them t6 overrule the mild dictates of reason, we may then bid adieu to composure of mind: peace will fly from our bosoms, and we shall never be able to regain it in this life, nor enjoy it in that which is to come.
Let me here appeal to yourselves: — When you come hither to praise the God who has protected you through the week, and to thank him for your creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; do you not feel a conscious pleasure arising in your bosoms, from a conviction of your acting in
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conformity with your obligations as a christian? And when this duty of praise and thanksgiving is performed as it ought to be, each morning and evening in your closets, can any thing equal the mental satisfaction you experience, when on your knees you pour forth the effusions of gratitude to the bountiful Providence of God, who has given you that peace which the world cannot give; — has filled your bosoms with tranquillity, and rendered you capable of relishing the calm delights of a christian life?
Then suffer no opinions, however speciously urged, to rob you of this felicity: the God who made you — the Saviour Avho redeemed you — the Holy Ghost who sanctified you, have done for you what a whole life spent in praises and thanksgivings cannot repay. Surely then, my brethren, while a pleasure is found in those moments you devote to their service, let nothing prevent — let nothing obstruct your performance of your duty, and then you may securely defy the attempts of the infidel, to shake your faith.
Look to the death-bed of the unbeliever— draw
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back the curtain, and see him in all the agony of despair! Behold him tormented by his own uneasy reflections: his conscience bringing to his view the God he has denied and the Saviour he has renounced: his imagination paints, in the strongest colours, all the horrors of his situation, and the '^ Terrors of God are set in array against him." Would you lose the tranquillity and composure of the humble and resigned christian, for the miserable state of this man, when death approaches to carry you from this world, where your probation is ended, and the reward or punishment is bestowed, according to your conduct under that trial ? — No, my brethren ! " Take unto yourselves the whole *^ armour of God, that ye may be able to with" stand in the evil day, and having done all to " stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt " about with truth, and having on the breast-plate '^ of righteousness, and your feet shod with the
'^ preparation of the gospel of peace: above all, '* taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be " able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked ; ff and take the helmet of salvation and the sword
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" of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying *' always with all prayer and supplication in the " Spirit/*
Every good man must rejoice in the retvirn of peace to our country, and the thanksgiving we are this day called upon to give to God, who is *' The ** Author of peace and the lover of concord," cannot be better performed than by observing that rectitude of conduct, which will preserve the peace of our bosoms; and so the better enable us to imitate the example of our Saviour, who, in all his words and actions, proved himself the Prince of Peace.
God Almighty, in the first lesson for this day's service, makes the following declaration to the Israelites : — " If ye walk in my statutes and keep
" my commandments, and do them; then will I ** give you rain in due season, and the land shall " yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall " yield their fruit. And your thrashing shall reach " unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach " unto the sowing time, and ye shall eat your " bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. " And I will give peace in your land." Then fol-
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lowjs a number of blessings, wliich would flow on them in consequence of peace ; and therefore, when we consider that these blessings were only conditional on their walking in his statutes, and keeping his commandments; we, my brethren, may discern our duty, and the means whereby we may secure the same blessings to ourselves, and our posterity.
The remaining part of the chapter is filled up with God's threatenings to the Israelites: if they would not hearken unto him, nor keep his commandments, then he would appoint over them ter-
ror, consumption, and the burning ague ; and that they should sow their seed in the land in vain.
It would appear strange that the Israelites should stand in need of threatenings, to deter them from sinning against the Lord, after the gracious promise of so many blessings, in case they would only keep his commandments, and do them, did we not, at this time daily see, that the same disobedience is found amongst the children of the new covenant, as of the old.
But let the text recal to your remembrance the
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dreadful punishment inflicted on the whole human race; with the exception of one family only, for their sin and wickedness.
When the impiety of mankind was risen to the highest pitch, God brought a flood to drown the world, and singled out Noah and his family as the only one meriting to be preserved alive. They con-
tinued in the ark, while the deluge swept away every other inhabitant of the earth. Till the dove brought the olive leaf, Noah knew not the waters were abated; but on seeing that token, he w^as convinced the anger of God was appeased, and that all nature would soon be reinstated in its pristine verdure and beauty.
In like manner, w^e have seen a deluge of infidelity and a flood of iniquity, overspread the nations of the earth, carrying a swift and irresistable destruction along with it ; and we consequently must have seen the arm of the Almighty made bare, to avenge the honour of his name.
Aw are of this, let us be cautious how we give way to the suggestions of those, who are ready to catch at the least deviation from that steadiness
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we owe to God, to religion and ourselves : let us give the Holy Spirit admittance into our bosoms. It descended from lieaven in the bodily shape of a
dove upon our Saviour — in the semblance of that winged messenger which brought to Noah the olive leaf, to shew the abatement of the waters from the earth : so shall we by its influence find all harmony and tranquillity within ; the stormy billows of this life will roll heedless over our heads, and with a steady composure, we shall smile at the approach of death, and welcome that stroke which bids the soul take her flight to those everlasting hills, where, in serenity and peace, we shall rest for evermore.
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